One thing that came to me when on the phone with John Leggett was the concept of next generation and regenerative agriculture. Yes next gen, and regen!
What effect will transition to the next generation of land managers have on the landscape?
I look back on my experience, and the transitions from my grandparents to my parents, to myself, and now onto the new owners of the land.
The transition from my grandparents, in who’s era transport was largely horse drawn vehicles, stock work was on horses, stock transport was droving, timber treatment was with an axe, and labour was cheap.
In my parents’ era there were many changes. Mechanical clearing of timber, chemical usage in agriculture, in the form of insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, cars became the mode of transport, & stock movement to market was on trucks.
These, along with many other changes, had their effect on land management. Unfortunately, much of this change was degenerative!
A NEW ERA OF LANDSCAPE MANAGEMENT
Now along comes my era in managing the land. Seeing the degeneration in the landscape, the increased cost of labour, machinery, fuel, electricity, etc., I set out to reduce the need for labour, reduce external inputs to the land, and begin to work with the land (not against it).
Now the landscape is in new ownership, having been sold to a Coal Seam Gas consortium for environmental offsets. The cattle enterprise is with new managers, and part of the agenda of the CSG consortium, is to progressively remove the grazing enterprise.
The property is owned by the CSG Consortium, while it is leased back to myself. The young couple are managing the cattle enterprise for me. The next phase of “succession” here is for me to bow out of the lease in November 2018, & the young couple will then take up the new lease from the CSG Consortium.
This agenda is largely driven by their need to satisfy state and federal regulators, who monitor the environmental offset, and its management.
What has all this to do with succession planning?
AGILE MANAGEMENT AND SUCCESSION PLANNING
In my opinion landscape management and succession planning are very closely connected.
Often people observed my land management techniques and suggested that I place some sort of management covenant on the farm.
I considered these suggestions, and was so grateful that my grandparents had not placed a covenant on the land. I was grateful that my parents had not placed a covenant on the land.
Imagine having a covenant on the land, from generations back, which dictated how to manage the land.
Consider then very carefully what “covenants” are within your succession plan. Is your succession plan sufficiently organic and sufficiently flexible to fully embrace the changes over succeeding generations?
Now to throw in another concept that is close to my heart: “anti-fragility”.
I came across a book some years back, titled ANTI FRAGILE, Things that gain from disorder by Nicholas Nassim Taleb.
The idea behind his theme of setting up systems, businesses, etc., to be anti-FRAGILE, is to build in a capacity into whatever we do, so that we can benefit from disorder!
The book struck a cord with me, and I believe that we can apply anti-fragility to almost anything.
Let’s get specific to our regenerative landscape. What “disorders” come from time to time, that we cannot predict?
Drought, flood, fire, market crashes, high interest rates, and more. How can we structure our landscape, our business, in order that we can extract benefit from these events?
On this same thought pattern, how can we make our succession plan more anti-FRAGILE.
In the event of sickness, death, relationship breakdown, what measures are in the succession plan that will see these wild cards, become beneficial events?
I have seen examples of “succession” where the older generation has been “guarantor” to the bank for loans taken out by the succeeding generation.
I have seen a number of not so nice “un-windings of these arrangements. Financial hardship, which has led to banks foreclosing, relationship breakdown in the succeeding generation, which has led for the need of property settlement. Now seeing a daughter/son in law walk way with ½ of the farm can be quite a bitter pill to swallow.
This section is largely written to provoke thought. Obviously, it is quite easy to set up a succession plan with obvious pitfalls, now maybe it is an opportunity to brain storm the hows of succession planning that is “bullet proof”.
Managing landscape for anti-fragility is quite easy, managing succession planning for anti-fragility will be your challenge.
I have had solicitors, accountants suggest testamentary trusts. These I am not in favour of. These to me are like placing a covenant on land, & what I call “management from the grave”.
Think about what could possibly go wrong with your succession plan, now think what changes may be needed to make it more anti-fragile.
My main personal anti-fragility measures are to invest in myself, through on going education, developing new skills, interests, and passions, taking ownership of my health, and fitness, and getting involved more in off-farm activities.